Missouri Senator of the 34 District, Rob Schaaf addressed MWSU Board of Governors member Debbie Smith as she reminded him of Western’s story and that the University has the largest growth and are appropriated the least per student of all Missouri Universities.
“We are proud of our growth and record at Missouri Western,” Smith said. She also mentioned the expansion of the university despite rising costs of operation and increasing numbers of students. That growth has happened without an increase in state appropriations last year and a proposed 7% cut for this year.
Schaaf meets with constituents on Western’s campus on the second and fourth Fridays of February, March and April to discuss laws and bills relating to state government. These meetings are free to the public and held at Blum Student Union.
“I know Western’s situation. Beth Wheeler (Western’s Director of External Relations) will never let me forget Western and what the proposed budget cut means to this university,” Schaaf said. He sympathized with Smith’s and the board’s position and reminded her that he is an alumnus. Schaaf also reported that the Chair of the Appropriations Committee is from the University of Missouri. “Every time the Senate takes a dollar from one area of the budget to fund another someone complains and they’re probably in a room somewhere talking to their senator right now,” Schaaf said.
Other attendees discussed topics ranging from corporate hog farms and their impact on neighboring farms to the need for tax credits to support the restoration of historic buildings. The Chair of The Landmarks Association Commissioners of St. Joseph Missouri, Nigh Johnson voiced his concern about the proposed budget cuts in historic tax credits from $140 million to $71 million. He claimed that the tax credits returned income to the state at a ratio of $1 of tax credit to $8 of revenue return. “I just don’t understand why the state would want to reduce the tax credits considering their rate of return,” Johnson said.
Schaaf doubted the rate of return. “Remember, I’m from Missouri and you will have to show me proof of that,” Schaaf said. Johnson was quoting from the Missouri Department of Economics’ report that he received a copy of the previous day but did not have the document with him. Schaaf reminded Johnson that ending the tax credits would not mean an immediate gain to the state funds.
“It’s like this,” Schaaf said, “Every group promises that they are too great of an investment not to fund.” He mentioned specifically the drug prevention efforts that promise lower numbers of criminals and lower cost of prisons and law enforcement. “It may be true or not, but after a while the legislature becomes numb to these types of comments and arguments.